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I think, perhaps, we can all agree that it is part of the creative process, over generations, to take what has been done before and "build" upon it. I don't think anyone can really have a problem with that. I think the line starts to grey, in this particular case, when this woodworker profited from another artist's design. He did ask and receive permission...
I'm sure that the designer is well aware that in writing an article in FWW and including the plan, he is at risk of such a thing happening. But I do think it is unethical. Funny... I think it's kinda okay for a couple of pieces, but I wouldn't think it's okay if Target took the design and tweeked it and manufactured it in China, which is what they do all the time. For clothing and accessories, if not furniture.
As a beginner woodworker, I buy plans all the time, and get them from Free Plans, and such, and try to build them, or change them a little to suit my needs. I am not able to design myself, I just don't have the knowledge or experience. And I look at furniture in showrooms and antique stores, like Norm Abrams, and see how things are put together. I'm trying to learn. I don't profit from them, but I see nothing wrong with learning from those that are more skilled than I. Furniture is my teacher!
Copying is a way to learn. In European Museums, you often see people in front of paintings, copying them to learn technique. Learning from a master. Once you learn the techniques, you can go out and design on your own... that may be old fashioned these days... Me? I long to be an apprentice!
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